The season has been one of extremes. Earlier spring heavy rains in the Southeast and Southwest were followed by torrential rains and disastrous flooding in the Mideastern states, especially in West Virginia. Later in the spring and early summer extreme heat gripped much of the South, especially the Southwest and Southern California. Heat advisories in June extended well into the West Central and East Central areas as well. In most cases colonies handled the heat well, but in the desert Southwest a number of beekeepers provided water and shade for apiaries.
Some beekeepers in the Midwest said the hot weather actually spurred honey flows from clovers and alfalfa since plants had moisture earlier in the season and then clear, hot weather allowed increased foraging hours. The fact that colonies overwintered better also made a big difference for a number of beekeepers in the Midwest who did not have to make as many divides or buy as many nucs or packages. These overwintered colonies were also stronger coming into the clover and alfalfa flows.
The two-tiered wholesale honey market continues to spread in the United States. While sales of small lots of honey, as well as regional varietal favorites continue to sell well, more commercial beekeepers are complaining about lower offering prices for larger lots of bulk honey that are competing with cheaper foreign honey. Retail sales are still strong, according to most of our reporters. Although extracting of new crop honey was well underway or completed in the southern half of the country, most beekeepers in the northern half of the country were not planning on doing a lot of extracting before late July or early August.
Summer honey flows were mentioned as coming from a number of sources including white Dutch clover, sweet clover, alsike clover, alfalfa, buckwheat, basswood, clethra, milkweed, knapweed, Canadian thistle and fireweed. In addition, flows will be starting soon from purple loosestrife, goldenrod, knotweed, and various asters. Overwintered colonies are generally making fair to good honey crops, but newly started colonies are still struggling to build up to normal foraging strength in time for late summer and fall flows. The summer weather has been clear and hot with scattered showers from time to time. Southern parts of this area have experienced heavy rains at times which have disrupted foraging and nectar production. Some beekeepers have started extracting, but many were not planning to start until sometime in August. As usual, beekeepers face the dilemma of either leaving supers on for late summer and fall flows, which can be quite heavy in this area, or removing supers and proceeding with early varroa mite controls before winter bees are produced.
Torrential rainfall and flooding in West Virginia and parts of Virginia were of major concern in June. However, even earlier in May excessive rains curtailed honey flows and bee foraging days. On the other hand, weather conditions have been more normal in much of Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina where beekeepers obtained fair to good earlier flows from wildflowers, black locust, privet, sumac, black gum, assorted berries, honeysuckle, thistle and clover. Reporters were hoping for good weather during the sourwood flow and later fall flows. At times, earlier unsettled weather had hurt pollination this spring in some parts of the Mideast. Beekeepers were extracting new crop honey and expected to have no trouble selling their crops at farmers’ markets, fairs, and festivals.
The general feeling among many of our reporters is that while honey crops are better than last season, they are still not up to normal in most locations. In Florida, flows were rated as poor from orange and tupelo and fair to poor from palmetto and gallberry. Georgia flows were rated as average from tupelo and sourwood, and fair to good from gallberry. Mississippi flows were rated as fair to good from privet hedge, wildflowers and tallow. In Alabama sources said privet and clover flows were fair to good, while flows from sumac, wildflowers, mimosa and cotton have been fair.
Beekeepers are continuing to extract new crop honey. Quotes from packers are good for white or light ambers grades—in particular beekeepers mentioned that they were still receiving good offers on new crop orange, gallberry and tupelo. In fact, one source mentioned that some beekeepers are receiving record prices for new crop tupelo honey–$12.50 per pound in drums and $22.50 per pound retail. Beekeepers also mentioned that Facebook is working well to sell honey. Some organic or natural foods outlets are allowing customers to bring their own containers or purchase empty containers and fill their own jars from bulk tanks.
Unrelenting spring rains hurt many of the early flows in the eastern portion of this area. However, later flow reports have been more encouraging from Chinese tallow, alfalfa, clover, wildflowers and cotton. Some honey was received from privet hedge earlier, according to various state reporters, but the flow was spotty. Arkansas beekeepers were also able to secure honey from assorted berries and clover earlier in the season. In Oklahoma, beekeepers obtained fair to good crops from canola, wildflowers, alfalfa, vetch and clover, but here again, flow reports were rather spotty. Farther west into New Mexico and Arizona, early flows were fair to good, but then very hot, dry weather dried up most of the remaining honey plants in bloom. Some prospects remain from irrigated crops, but they are also under heat stress. Demand remains strong for new crop honey in this area.
Warmer weather and stronger overwintered colonies helped bring about better spring and summer honey crops in a number of East Central states. Many locations had adequate rain earlier in the spring, so plants were able to mature and produce plenty of nectar during a time when colonies were populous and able to forage regularly without interference from cool weather or rain. Even some packages and nucs will make honey crops this season due to better than normal honey flows. Prominently mentioned were wildflowers, white Dutch clover, yellow and white sweet clover, as well as alfalfa and basswood trees. In Michigan, star thistle was also mentioned as producing good surpluses in some locations. Some reporters said that they continued to have adequate ground moisture, but others said that more rain was needed to help later soybean, goldenrod and aster flows. In addition to better honey flows this season, area reporters were also happy about the …